In My Kitchen, December 2020

It is only in very recent weeks that we have returned to some semblance of ‘Covid Normal’ here in Melbourne. This has had a huge impact on my life in the kitchen. While the meals I prepared for two were interesting, healthy and varied over the long 8 months of no socialising, I managed to lose the desire to cook for larger groups, or provide for little gatherings at home. I’ve lost confidence in cooking: I now prefer spontaneous meals, rather than planned events. A corollary of this is that I no longer write blogs. Let’s hope this little post will be akin to dipping my big toe in cold water before diving right in.

Bulgar Mejadra, the Palestinian version of Mujadarra, which uses bulgar wheat instead of rice. I prefer this version. Recipe from Falastiin.

One thing I’ve noticed, now that I’m able to travel more than 5 kilometers from my residence, is that food shopping has become rather special: it’s louder, brighter and more tempting than previously, akin to a 3D technicolour movie experience after a life of black and white. The local supermarket supplied me with the basics during the ‘iso’ months, but I’m excited to be travelling to my preferred food outlets again. Years ago, one relied on the inner suburbs for more interesting goods, be they Middle Eastern, Indian, Italian or Greek. With the gentrification of the inner suburbs and consequent rent hikes, more interesting food supplies can now be found in developing suburbs on the fringes. Fortunately for me, this means a drive through our back hills and dales which ends up being relatively close.

Today’s pick. Zucchini and cauliflower.

My vegetable garden is booming. There’s nothing better than fresh stuff picked on the day of cooking. This year I’ve planted two types of zucchini – Romanesco are producing well at the moment and I love the more delicate flavour of this variety. Blackjack zucchini are in flower and I mainly use these for pickles and soup. Two of my late cauliflower have grown into florets- something I find more desirable than creamy heads. These stalks are really nice in stir fries or battered with besan flour. I’m planning to save the seed of this non heading variety 

I took a month off sourdough bread baking- to match my month of doing nothing much except watching Netflix. But happily I’m back into it with a vengeance, especially now that I can order from a wholesaler who supplies top organic flours. During covid, I relied on Amazon for flour deliveries, but can now travel to pick up the good stuff.

Breakfast treats from the Bakehouse, Portland Victoria. Not in my kitchen. In a motel room.

We recently enjoyed a short getaway to Western Victoria, once the metaphorical ‘Ring of Steel’ was lifted from Melbourne. One of the highlights of the trip was a visit to the Bakehouse in Portland, where Kim bakes the most amazing sourdough goods. There are wonderful breads to choose from, but her sourdough patisserie goods are irresistable too. The range changes daily- fresh bombolini, danish, brioche, croissants and more- all light and buttery but made with a sourdough levain. The Bakehouse Portland is only open from Thursday to Sunday, and it’s best to arrive early. Her bakery is at the rear of 31 Percy Street Portland, VIC, Australia. Once inside the shop, you are transported to a classy French Patsisserie: I was surprised to learn that Kim began making sourdough only 5 years ago and learnt mostly from youtube and instagram, and not in Paris. There’s hope for us all, you just need the passion. If you’re travelling through Portland, do not miss this bakery.

Berries in my kitchen

The youngberry bush is flushing daily. I think it’s time to make jam again.

There are always a few dozen fresh eggs in my kitchen. I sell around 5 dozen each week which subsidises the cost of grain and fresh straw. My girls have a good life runnning through the orchard and hiding in the berry bushes. One strange thing that happened during lockdown was the secret expansion of the flock and the hatching of chickens. Yes we do have rather too many, but who can resist a lavender coloured Pekin Bantom with attitude?

What? is all she said.

This year’s garlic crop is curing in the shed. It takes a month or so to correctly cure garlic for long storage. The harvest is now finished, with a count of 230 garlic bulbs, enough to keep the vampires away for next year. Thanks Sherry, of Sherry’s Pickings, for hosting this series. You can follow Sherry’s link for more worldwide in my kitchen posts.

Eggs with Dukkah. The Perfect Lunch

Have you noticed that eggs are back in fashion and are considered the perfect protein, high in all the omega numbers and good for you? The belief that eggs equal cholesterol is now discredited and considered to be another food myth. Knowing the source of your perfect protein is important though. Choose eggs from suppliers that give their hens a good time, with the run of a grassy paddock, and a varied diet of organic feed. It’s worth spending an extra dollar or two on these parcels of total goodness.

I don't need no money, fortune or fame. I've got all the riches, baby, one man can claim. Well, I guess you'd say What can make me feel this way? My girl (my girl, my girl) Talkin' 'bout my girl (my girl).
I don’t need no money, fortune or fame. I’ve got all the riches, baby, one man can claim.
Well, I guess you’d say, What can make me feel this way?
My girls (my girls, my girls), Talkin’ ’bout my girls….

Eggs make the perfect lunch or quick dinner and are very satisfying, especially for those folk who follow a vegetarian diet. Lunch time egg specials include hardboiled eggs sprinkled with Dukkah, or rosemary salt, or draped in a parsley pesto, or chopped through a salad of endive leaves then tossed in a garlicky mustard dressing. I love them cracked onto a bed of peperonata in a little rustic terracotta dish, then baked in the oven till set. Hard boiled eggs make for a simple tomato based Indian curry, served with rice. The Chinese chefs in Yunnan province stir fry them with tomatoes then add some soya sauce, while the French poach them perfectly and place them on top of a butterhead lettuce salad, with croutons and a good dressing. Two eggs tossed with a generous handful or two of finely chopped parsley and a grating of good pecorino or parmigiano makes a fast little lunchtime frittata. Made them paper-thin, then roll them up and serve in slices for a Spring starter.

small lunches
small lunches

Making dukkah once a month is a cheap way to add oomph to a lunchtime egg.

  • ¼ cup of whole almonds (or hazelnuts or macadamia)
  • 2 Tablespoons coriander seeds
  • 2 tablespoons white sesame seeds
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • ½ teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1½teaspoons peppercorns
  • ½ teaspoon dried mint
  • ½ teaspoon fine salt

Serve with extra flaked salt and EV olive oil at the table.

Heat a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the nuts and toast until browned and fragrant. Transfer to a small bowl. Repeat with the other seeds and peppercorns, toasting each separately and allowing them to cool completely. Put the peppercorns in a mortar and pestle and pound until crushed. Add the nuts and seeds, along with the mint and salt and crush to a course consistency. ( I used  almonds and a coffee grinder for the nuts, then ground the toasted seeds, as they cooked, one at a time in the mortar).

Peel the eggs. Sprinkle with Dukkah, drizzle with oil, and add a tiny bit of flaked salt such as Maldon salt to taste.

Dukkah will keep in a well sealed jar in a cool place for up to one month. Cool!

Freshly made Dukkah.
Freshly made Dukkah.

The following method produces the most edible boiled eggs. A bit of care makes all the difference.

  • Put the eggs in a saucepan of cold water eggs, covering them by 2.5 cm/1 inch.
  • Bring the water to a rolling boilSet the pan over high heat and bring the water to a boil, uncovered.
  • Turn off the heat and cover the pan. As soon as the water comes to a boil, remove the pan from heat and cover the pan.
  • Set your timer for the desired time. Leave the eggs in the covered pan for the right amount of time. This depends on whether you want soft-boiled or hard-boiled eggs. For slightly runny soft-boiled eggs: 4 minutes. For custardy yet firm soft-boiled eggs, 6 minutes. For firm yet still creamy hard-boiled eggs, 10 minutes.
  • Eat them hot or submerge the eggs in a few changes of cold water for a minute or two before cracking and peeling. They last for 1 week in the fridge, unshelled.

Recipe for dukkah from Super Natural Every Day,  Heidi Swanson. Ten Speed Press.

How to cook the perfect hard boiled egg adapted from a guide here.